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Blog Category: International Trade Administration

Panama Canal Expansion Offers Opportunity for U.S. Companies to Serve as Partners with Panama

Dr. Blank seated at control panel of Panama Canal

As a part of her trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama this week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank met today with Jorge Quijano, Panama Canal Administrator, and Roberto Roy, President of the Panama Canal Board and the Panama City Subway, to discuss the Panama Canal Expansion Project and infrastructure spending related to Panama City’s Metro Rail Project. These meetings aim to strengthen longstanding U.S.-Panama ties by promoting greater cooperation between the two countries on infrastructure development.

Panama is a longstanding friend and ally to the United States, and the country’s strategic location as a major shipping route makes it an important economic partner as well. The Panama Canal currently handles five percent of the world’s trade, and approximately two-thirds of the Canal’s annual transits are bound to or from ports in the United States.

In order to allow greater container capacity, the Panama Canal Authority has decided to invest over $5 billion to expand the Canal. The expanded Canal will accommodate larger vessels that cannot transit now, introducing a new line of business that Panama projects will gradually increase annual profits to $3 billion. 

Autodesk Promotes Increasing Infrastructure Investment and Use of Technology During Latin America Trade Mission

Photo of Amar Hanspal

Autodesk Promotes Increasing Infrastructure Investment and Use of Technology During Latin America Trade Mission

Guest Blog Post by Amar Hanspal, Senior Vice President of Information Modeling products, Autodesk Inc.

Ed note: Autodesk is a $2 billion design and engineering firm with tens of millions of customers around the world. Autodesk’s portfolio of software empowers organizations of all sizes, creative visionaries, students and consumers to conceptualize, analyze, simulate and communicate their ideas and make them real. Autodesk’s software has been used to create the world’s most compelling media and entertainment, including the last 18 Academy-award winning films, and solve the most complex global design, engineering and sustainability challenges.

Autodesk is honored to be a part of this trade mission to Latin America.  As a company, we are committed to helping this region build, or rebuild, its critical infrastructure. This mission affords us an opportunity to meet with government and private sector leaders and develop long-term, strategic relationships with the Embassies and U.S. Foreign Commercial Service representatives. We are proud of the early progress already made in just a couple days of meetings.  Working together we have been able to identify near and long-term opportunities and connect with key leaders and decision makers to drive critical, infrastructure-related discussions forward. 

So, why is Autodesk involved?

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Commemorates the Anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement

One of the Commerce Department’s top priorities is to strengthen the economic ties between the United States and our trading partners. One year ago today, the ties between the United States and Colombia became much stronger with the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank marked during her remarks today at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce and the Counsel of American Companies (CEA) in Bogotá, Colombia. 

Prior to the implementation of the Trade Promotion Agreement, also known as the U.S.-Colombia FTA, the average tariff rate on U.S. industrial exports to Colombia was higher than 10 percent. The agreement immediately eliminated tariffs on more than 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports to Colombia when it took effect last year, with the remaining tariffs being phased out within 10 years. This makes it easier for U.S. firms to export to Colombia. In fact, from June 2012 through March 2013, U.S. goods exported to Colombia have increased 19 percent compared to the same period in the year before. In 2012, U.S. goods exports to Colombia reached $16.4 billion and made up nearly a quarter of all Colombia’s imports of goods. 

Colombian firms have also benefited from the Trade Promotion Agreement, which experts estimate could create hundreds of thousands of Colombian jobs over the next few years. Under this agreement, more than 600 Colombian companies have started exporting to the United States for the first time, and Colombia continues to experience a trade surplus with the United States, its largest trading partner. 

Due in part to the Trade Promotion Agreement, U.S. businesses are increasingly interested in exploring trade with Colombia. The 20 firms accompanying Acting Secretary Blank on her trade mission this week represent just a snapshot of the U.S. business community that is looking for new opportunities to invest in Colombia. 

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement is one tool helping the United States work toward the goals of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and support an additional 2 million export-related jobs by the end of 2014. By working together, the United States and Colombia have successfully fostered economic growth and strengthened the relationship between both countries. The Commerce Department is committed to further strengthening this relationship by encouraging increased trade and creating more economic development opportunities for businesses in both countries. 

For more information about the U.S.-Colombia FTA, visit http://www.trade.gov/press/press-releases/2013/colombia-factsheet-051513.pdf

Acting Secretary Blank Meets with Brazilian CEOs, Promotes SelectUSA Investment Summit

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank is joined by Josué Gomes Da Silva, Chairman and CEO, Coteminas and Marcelo Bahia Odebrecht, President of Construtora Norberto Odebrecht S.A. at a Roundtable with Brazilian CEOs

Yesterday, Acting Secretary Blank met with a group of Brazilian CEOs to hear their priorities for doing business with the U.S. and to propose possible areas for close collaboration with American businesses. One area in which U.S. and Brazilian firms can work together is on infrastructure development, which is one reason why Acting Secretary Blank is currently leading a trade mission of 20 U.S. firms in a wide range of infrastructure industry sectors to Brazil, Colombia and Panama. These companies offer everything from cutting-edge technologies to top-notch services in engineering, management consulting, and more -- and they are well equipped to help Brazil meet its robust goals for infrastructure improvements.

Acting Secretary Blank emphasized the importance of a strong bilateral investment relationship -- many global manufacturers, including some in Brazil, are now looking to return manufacturing operations to the U.S., to expand operations here, or to invest in the U.S. for the first time. That´s because there are a host of factors that make America a very attractive place to do business: low domestic energy costs and a stable supply of energy, high labor productivity, strong research institutions that can serve as partners in developing new products, intellectual property protections, and a stable business investment environment.

International Visitors Spent $14.4 Billion in the United States in March 2013

Firs-quarter U.S. Travel and Tourism exports contribute $43 billion to the U.S. economy

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank highlighted new data today that shows spending by international visitors to the United States in March 2013 totaled more than $14.4 billion, an increase of nearly 3 percent when compared to last year. International visitors spent $43 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States during the first quarter of 2013. The data release coincides with National Travel and Tourism Week, celebrated each year to recognize the positive impact the industry has on our economy.


“International travel and tourism represents our country’s largest services export,” said Deputy Secretary Blank. “So far this year, international visitor spending in the United States has markedly outpaced U.S. spending abroad by more than $13 billion, which continues our momentum from 2012’s record-setting year. Likewise, last week’s jobs report showed continued strong job growth in the leisure and hospitality industry.  Travel and tourism is an important sector of our economy, which is why we are continuing to increase our efforts to attract more international tourists to vacation in the United States.” 

Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors traveling in the United States totaled $11 billion during March. These goods and services include food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the United States, and other items incidental to foreign travel. Fares received by U.S. carriers (and U.S. vessel operators) from international visitors also increased by nearly 3 percent to $3.4 billion for the month, an increase of $70 million when compared to March 2012. Overall, the United States enjoyed a favorable balance of trade for the month of March in the travel and tourism sector, with a surplus of $4.2 billion. Full release

Celebrating World Trade Throughout May

Cross post from Tradeology, the official blog of the International Trade Administration

The following blog post was written by Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

May brings warmer weather, longer days, and, most importantly for us at the Department of Commerce, World Trade Month. For years, this has been a special time to reflect on the importance of trade to our nation’s economic well-being.

Over the past few months, we’ve discussed what an important year 2012 was for exports and our  economy: a record-setting $2.2 trillion in overall exports, 10 percent annual growth in tourism-related exports, and 9.8 million U.S. jobs supported by exports.

World Trade Month is an occasion to recognize the past year’s successes while looking ahead to new ways to expand exports and build a stronger economy. It’s a month for us to recognize what we know all year long: that exports are a key to our long-term economic health.

The month of May will provide many opportunities to do just that. Events and observances to look out for include:

  • National Travel and Tourism Week, a celebration of that industry’s contributions to the U.S. economy, will take place from May 4-12.
  • On May 16, the Small Business Administration and Denver U.S. Export Assistance Center will co-sponsor the 40th Annual World Trade Day.
  • May 19 will bring the start of World Trade Week, a tradition dating back to 1927 and marked by a Presidential proclamation.
  • During that week, the President’s annual “E” Awards will be presented to leading U.S. exporters.

Have a question about getting started in exporting? Twitter chats throughout the month will offer chances to learn about exporting and pose questions to government agencies involved in President Obama’s National Export Initiative.

We invite you to check this post or our World Trade Month category for regular updates on these and other events. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

As we kick off World Trade Month 2013, our team looks forward to continuing to support our nation’s exporters as they build things here and sell them everywhere.

Deputy Secretary Blank Announces 20 Companies Joining Infrastructure Business Development Trade Mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced the 20 companies that will join her on an infrastructure business development trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; and Panama City, Panama from May 12-18, 2013. The governments of these countries have each outlined ambitious infrastructure development plans for the years ahead, and this trade mission will help U.S. companies in a broad range of infrastructure industry sectors make the connections they need to expand their business opportunities in Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

The trade mission will support President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and create 2 million export-supported jobs by the end of 2014. Last year, exports hit another all-time record, reaching $2.2 trillion. And, between 2009 and 2012 exports have supported 1.3 million additional jobs.

The mission will also highlight the successes in the U.S. trade relationships with Colombia and Panama, specifically, since free trade agreements with each country have taken effect. The Deputy Secretary and the business delegation will be in Colombia on the one-year anniversary of the implementation of that Free Trade Agreement (FTA), May 15.

The mission will include export-ready U.S. firms in a broad range of leading U.S. infrastructure and industrial sectors, with an emphasis on project management (including construction, architecture and design), transportation (including road/highways, rail, airports, and intelligent transportation systems), energy (including distribution, transmission, and smart grid), water resources management (including water treatment, distribution and collection), and safety and security. The mission will help U.S. businesses in initiating or expanding exports to Brazil, Colombia and Panama by making business-to-business introductions, providing market access information, and facilitating access to government decision makers.

See the entire list of 20 companies and learn more about the opportunities in each of these three export markets.

2012 Peace Through Commerce Medal Award Recipients Announced

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez announced the nine individuals and organizations that are recipients of the International Trade Administration’s 2012 Peace through Commerce Medal Award.

The award recognizes an individual, group, or organization, either domestic or abroad, whose actions have significantly promoted and developed U.S. export initiatives, encouraged innovative approaches, and improved overall U.S. trade relations.

The Peace through Commerce Medal dates back to the first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned the medal in 1790. Jefferson gifted the medal, formerly known as the Diplomatic Medal, to foreign diplomats who aided the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. The medal is most renowned for its inscription, To Peace and Commerce, centered along the top. Read more about the entire list of award winners.

New Data Shows 29 States Hit Record Export Levels In 2012

State Export Data

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced new state export data that shows 29 states set new records for export sales in 2012. In total, 35 states achieved merchandise export growth in 2012, and 20 of those states experienced growth of at least five percent or more.

Total merchandise exports from all 50 states helped contribute to the record-setting value of goods and services exports in 2012, which reached $2.2 trillion. Nationally, jobs supported by exports increased to 9.8 million in 2012, up 1.3 million since 2009. This puts us ahead of schedule to meet the President’s goal of adding two million export-supported jobs by the end of 2014.

More information about individual state contributions to national exports is available through the International Trade Administration’s Office of Trade and Industry Information web page, www.trade.gov/mas/ian/statereports, which includes individual fact sheets for all 50 states. An interactive map with national and state merchandise trade data is available here: http://tse.export.gov/TSE/.

Doing Business in Africa Forum Presents Opportunities for American Businesses in Sub-Saharan Region

Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Minority Business Development Agency National Director David Hinson Address the Doing Business in Africa Forum

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and David Hinson, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency

Earlier this week, we attended the Doing Business in Africa Forum at the White House. This was the first forum of the Doing Business in Africa campaign that the Commerce Department launched three months ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank gave the opening remarks and focused on strengthening commercial ties between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. She emphasized that as the continent’s wealth increases, so does the demand for improved infrastructure, energy services, and high-quality consumer and agricultural products – all of which American companies are well positioned to provide. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing countries in the world, which helps explain why over the past decade, U.S. trade to and from Africa has tripled, with U.S. exports now topping $21 billion.  Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement, welcomed the group of federal government officials, African-born U.S. business and financial leaders, and African-American entrepreneurs, corporate executives, fund managers and investment advisors. Mr. Strautmanis emphasized the need for a collective approach from federal agencies to provide expanded investment and trade financing support to help U.S businesses become more effective global competitors, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region.

Amplifying that message, both of us, along with representatives from government entities including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Export-Import Bank, Small Business Administration, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Trade and Development Agency and Millennium Challenge Corporation, described for the assembled group how all of our services are structured under the Doing Business in Africa campaign to help them seize opportunities in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.